Opinion: Celebrate academic giant Asa Hilliard this Black History Month


Asa G. Hilliard III, Ph.D., was a giant in his own right. What he achieved in his 73 years of life has been recognized on an international stage, and is why he should be honored this Black History Month.

Hilliard was a pillar of pedagogy and child psychology and had a passion for African culture and history. He believed that in order to be global citizens, African-Americans needed to reconnect with their African heritage.

A leading advocate of African history, Hilliard was a professor of Urban Education at Georgia State University for 27 years. Prior to that, he spent 18 years at San Francisco State University. His work had such a profound impact that there is even a metro Atlanta school named after him — Asa Hilliard Elementary.

Hilliard’s contributions to the field of education and the study of African culture are two of many reasons why his collection — housed in the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library’s Archives Research Center — is so valuable. The collection will be available for viewing in a special program on Feb. 28, 2019, followed by an in-depth panel discussion that same day, and including a symposium highlighting Hilliard’s work and accomplishments in 2020.

Hilliard supported the elimination of standardized college admission tests and believed that excellence was in the reach of all children, stating, “I have never encountered any children in any group who are not geniuses. There is no mystery on how to teach them. The first thing you do is treat them like human beings and the second thing you do is love them.”

He was married to accomplished educator Patsy Jo Hilliard, the first woman and the first African-American mayor of East Point, Georgia. He served as a consultant to the Peace Corps and superintendent of schools in Monrovia, Liberia. He also led frequent study groups to Egypt and Ghana to help educators learn how to create more African-centered curricula.

Hilliard’s collection is not only a great resource for scholars and African Americans, but it is also important for those interested in rediscovering their identity.

Hilliard was an academic giant of Atlanta and the African Diaspora. His body of work greatly contributed to the modern Africana educational movement and educational psychology, and the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library is proud and honored to make his legacy accessible to students, educators, and community members, far and wide. We invite you to visit our website www.auctr.edu to learn more.

So as you honor the many trailblazers and activists who have contributed to the advancement of African-Americans this Black History Month, please remember to pay homage to Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III — this year and every year thereafter.

Clinton Fluker, Ph.D., serves as the assistant director of engagement and scholarship at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library.